Good morning, Infosphere!
Over the past few months, I’ve been wanting to set up “Metathink Mondays.” Essentially, once a week, post an insight or a question that we can all ponder and reflect upon, in the service of making us smarter. Then, I’ll collect all the feedback, assemble it into another post or ebook that would be like an ‘insight report’ for all of us. We’ve done this once before, but I know we’ve all grown since then, so I’d like to revisit the topic.
So, if you haven’t been following along here, I’ve been working on this concept I’ve dubbed “metathinking,” or “a way of figuring out what the hell is going on.” We’re surrounded by all these streams of information, complexity, and accelerating change, and just trying to find a way to keep up. Well, there’s no way of “keeping up” – it’s flowing and it’s only getting faster. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel that will keep us from drowning. As Clay Shirky put it, “It’s not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.” While the programmers and engineers improve the quality of search, we need to be doing the same – but not with code, with people.
The way I define metathinking is “employing critical thinking through a multitude of frameworks in order to identify weak signals, make connections, and solve problems.” It’s a working definition, but for anyone out there doing ‘knowledge work,’ this is the final frontier folks – not outer space, but the 6 inches God gave us from ear to ear. If we want to be competitive today, we need to spend focused time learning how to unleash the power of our minds.
I think a huge part of this process is in learning how to harness the power of networks, and that’s the purpose of today’s post. Though I called it ‘The Power of Twitter,’ it’s not really about Twitter at all. Twitter is a platform, a communication tool for information exchange. What makes it useful is the people that are pumping info through it, but I didn’t think titling the post ‘The Power of Humans’ would travel as well. What I have found as I’ve experimented over the months is that when used with intention, when assembling our human network in an intelligent way – looking for people to learn from, for strategic alliances, and for insights – Twitter becomes a learning powerhouse. The people with whom you interact end up doing the filtering for you, not only making your tweetstream useful in general, but they’ll even directly send you information that they think you can use to grow. This is the way I’ve been using the platform, trying to provide the best quality, most useful information that I come across, and in turn my peers are returning the favor.
So today’s question is this: How have you benefitted from your Twitter network?
For me, I’m following around 900 people, about 200 who don’t follow me back, but they’re smart or tweet great stuff and I’m interested in what they have to say. There are around 150 that I keep up with in a broad sense – I don’t always speak with them, but I’m ambiently aware of what they’re tweeting and who they’re talking to. And then there are around 30 or so that I communicate with regularly. It happens in open exchange with @replies, via DM, or via conversations that unfold in the comments section here. When there’s a particularly interesting idea still in gestation, we’ll hash it out privately via email. I don’t even know what most of these people directly do for a living, but I know they’re thinkers, change agents, and linchpins. And they make me smarter every day.
As you may know, I’m in grad school right now, researching how technology is impacting society and culture, how it is changing our behavior and the way we think. So ‘thinking about thinking’ is kind of what I do. I clearly find this to be important, and I put in the time and effort to write things here because I want us all to be smarter and better. Unfortunately, the very situation I’m in that gives me the ability to do so much research also puts me on the other side of the wall of practical implementation. My outlet for all of this is here, my insights just feed back into the infosphere, hopefully returning me more insights. What I’d love is some feedback of your experience.
How have the networks and connections you’ve made directly helped you at work? What are specific examples of how information that was shared with you via Twitter (or any social media, really) allowed you to DO something new – create a better experience for a customer, client, student, child, or friend. What are you doing to amplify the social capital within your web of connections?
If you can, take some time to reflect on this, then write a post and share the link in the comments section or just leave the comment here. You might have something in mind already, or maybe you haven’t really thought about this before, in which case – just observe your behavior today. See who is providing you with the links that you click through. Who are these people? Are there certain people that consistently tweet stuff that helps you? Have you helped them back? (I think ‘thanks for RT’ is nice, but even better is when you can show your appreciation for their link by trying to send them one that you think they’d benefit from too). See if by being very observant of how you interact with the people and information, your behavior changes a bit. Maybe you get a little more discriminatory about what you tweet? Maybe you raise the bar on yourself? Maybe you think about who would benefit most from info you come across? (I’m calling this “targeted sharing.”) Maybe you realize that certain people could benefit not just from a link to great information, but by introducing them to great people. (The term being used for this is “network weaving,” [thanks @juneholley] – I try to do it as often as I can, using the hashtag #networkweaving).
I think we can ALL become tremendously more effective in what we’re doing if we think about it and do it with intention. I’m really excited to hear what you come up with, and if you do have an insight, but don’t want to leave a comment or write a post, feel free to tweet your thought with the hashtag #metathink and I’ll aggregate those tweets here as I see them.
Looking forward, and thanks to everyone who’s participating in this amazing learning and growth.
From the Twittersphere:
@jschmeling #metathink – I use Twitter as Miemis does – follow lists, people, with topics of interest. The network brings new (or new to me) info. in addition to new info, allows me to think across boundaries, disciplines, new topics, techniques can be applied to my work. twitter allows infusion of my work into the dialog, maybe others pick up, add disability, other topics to their work or thought